So I was walking around Downtown Chicago last weekend, the very same weekend Apple pushed 1 million iPhone 3G units out the door, and saw a police officer stroll by on his government issued Segway, which got me thinking. What if the on-top-of-the-world tech giant invented, marketed, and sold the Segway today. Would Apple be able to push the 50,000 to 100,000 units out the door that Segway Inc. expected to sell in its first year of sales? I think the answer is 100% yes. Well, maybe 90%.
-Design Design Design
Apple has a knack for taking products to their limit of how good they can look. When Steve Jobs got a first look at the Segway back in 2003, he said, “Its shape is not innovative, it’s not elegant, it doesn’t feel anthropomorphic.” (For those of us that needed to look up that word: anthropomorphic adj. – resembling or made to resemble a human form.) If Jobs and his designers were to design the Segway, it would, for sure, be better in those three areas. Of course there would be a snazzy placement of a light up Apple logo, causing all the Apple lovers to eat it right up.
Also, the most important design & production point, Apple would be able to get enough of a mass production discount to keep the cost of the device down. They would shoot to have these priced at $2,999.00 (or as low as $77.00 a month). Crossing that $3,000.00 price point, for the base unit, is too scary for consumers.
With the popularity of Apple now, and the way people are eagerly handing over their credit cards for anything with an Apple logo on it, they would easily be able to push 100,000 units out the door in a year. I know some of you are saying, “Hey don’t push that overzealous bandwagon theory into this argument, everyone that buys an Apple product knows exactly what they are buying!!!” Well let me present to you this sample dialogue told to me by my co-worker that was waiting in line for his iPhone 3G.
20 something woman waiting in line, gets approached by what is assumed to be her mother.
Mother: What are you waiting in line for?
Daughter: Oh this new Apple phone. It’s cool, its got a touch screen, plays MP3, it’s really cool.
Mother: Really?! Maybe I want one of those too!
Daughter: Yeah, you should get one! Wait with me!
Woman and her Mother wait in line. An Apple associate comes by to answer questions.
Mother: What’s the deal with this phone?
Apple Associate: Ma’am the Apple iPhone is the most advanced cell phone on the market now, it has fully integrated PUSH email, calendar, and contacts. Along with real web browsing, an app store, and now integrated GPS.
Daughter: Oh really?! GPS, I had no idea it could do ANY of that!
*(Words are approximated, but idea is the same – Thanks Dave)
This was probably a common occurrence within the lines and lines of people waiting for the iPhone.
There are some of you saying, there are plenty of Apple products that Apple sells that don’t reach the numbers you are talking about. You are correct, but with the iPhone-like hype the Segway got when it was originally announced, Apple would be able to quickly turn that hype into sales. They have built up a well enough rapport with consumers, that as long as there is a line to get it, a cool factor, and an Apple logo on the side of it, people will shell out the cash/credit for it.
-Marketing is King
Apple is a marketing juggernaut and would have to assert its dollars in this area in order to make this product sell. They would saturate the movie and television market, making it look like everyone in our society uses a Segway on a daily basis. With the right ad campaign, they would be able to make everyone in the world think they were morons for wanting to walk anywhere. Commercials, billboards, and subway cars would all be screaming at us, “Soon there will be 2 kinds of people. Those who walk, and those who walk different.” Other ads will be telling us to purchase this new transportation device because, “It just goes”.
With the skyrocketing fuel prices, and the big push for “Being Green”, electric powered transportation is the “new black”. (Ironically, all of Apple’s successful gadgets come in black!) Apple would need to leverage this in their marketing and let people know, “Not only is this the coolest gadget IN the world, it’s the coolest gadget FOR the world.” A perfect example of this is the Honda Civic Hybrid. The Civic was already one of the coolest cars for teens and 20-somethings. But make it “Green”, and you got yourself a car that you have to get on a waiting list to buy.
Whether you agree with me or not, it seems like something just might be a brewing on this front, since on July 7th, the former CTO of Segway, Doug Fields, left to join Apple (JT: maybe this new hire has to do with the unknown “future product transition”).
Hopefully Fields can get this project on a roll. I know I speak for most when I say that we are just so tired of walking everywhere, and we don’t want to look like the biggest nerds ever, on a non-anthropomorphic Segway.
Er, no. Apple’s brand is strong, but not strong enough to sell products solely on hype. The iPhone 3G line analogy just doesn’t hold, because the iPhone 3G is not only in an established category – cellphones – it is building on 19 months of advertising and press coverage of the original iPhone. The Segway was introducing a new category of vertical scooter type things – expensive ones, at that.
The internal conversation for the iPhone 3G line lady was probably something like this: “Oh, a new iPhone? That’s cool. I bet it’s better than my phone, and not only will it make phone calls and send text messages, it’s like an iPod and… its very cool and… well, I’m sure it does other stuff that I saw on TV and can’t remember. I better stand in line.”
The internal conversation for an Apple Segway – even a $3,000 one – would go like this: “Oh, so this is the new thing everyone’s talking about from Apple. What does it do? Oh, it’s a transportation thingie. But it’s open and doesn’t go on the freeway, so I can’t use it to commute or buy groceries. Hmm. I don’t know when I’d ever use it. Still, it *is* cool. How much is it? WHAAAAT? Are you kidding me? I’ll wait for the next version.”
The Segway’s time for mass use is nearly upon us. The trouble is, it will likely take hold in China and India before it does here (because of the price). Nonetheless, it is clearly a clean, green, eco-friendly machine and I am pleased to give them away for free to homeowner clients that list their homes for sale with me.
I gave away the first two weeks ago:
Just trying to do my part for the planet…and the real estate market!
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
It would surely go the same way as the IIc, the III, the Lisa, the Cube, the….
Oh, and the batteries wouldn’t last long enough and critical pieces of electronics would overheat and die early. Only with a Segway, they’d probably take the user with them.